Several news outlets this week have reported on the fact that Fred Phelps Sr.- founder of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas- is ill and near death. His family has asked for respect and privacy at this time and that no one picket his funeral.
This is the man who led pickets at the funerals of our fallen soldiers. He and his church have, in the name of serving God, spewed toxic bitterness that created agony for those trying to get through an already difficult day as they mourned for their soldiers.
They threatened to picket the funerals of the children who died at Sandy Hook. Turning something so intensely painful for the parents of these precious children into an agenda full of hate.
And yet this man's family asks for privacy and that no one picket his funeral. They request the one thing they refused those who were grieving their own losses.
The human in me wants to show up at Mr. Phelps' funeral and rage and give his family a taste of what they've given to so many. To let them drink the bitter cup they've poured out on so many hurting families who simply wanted to mourn and say goodbye to someone who fought and died for our nation, someone they loved and will never see again.
But the Jesus in me says something different.
The Jesus in me says that I should be praying for these people during what will surely be a difficult time for them. They're about to lose a father, grandfather, brother, and friend.
The Jesus in me says that I should mourn for a man who clearly never had Jesus in his own heart and will die apart from God. He will have to stand before His Maker one day soon and justify his actions, justify the hate he's spread in the name of God, justify the hurt he's caused when he had the power to spread love instead.
The Jesus in me says that I should behave the way a true Christian would in order to show the Fred Phelps' of the world what love truly looks like. Love, real love, does not teach hate. It does not intentionally cause pain to anyone. It does not use the name of God as a weapon to injure the grief stricken, the down trodden, the weak, and the hurting. Love upholds the weak, gives strength to the weary, encourages the hopeless, helps the helpless, befriends the lonely, leads the lost.
Jesus would not picket the funeral of Fred Phelps. He would attend and grieve and comfort those who mourn.
I cannot attend, but I will grieve with those who mourn and pray that the Phelps family and church will learn something from those who do likewise. I'll will be showing love in the face of hate and praying that Jesus will touch the hearts of those who have lived on a diet of hate for too long.